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Old April 22, 2019, 02:56 PM   #1
johnm1
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Colt 1903 High Polish Finish

I purchased a Colt 1903 a couple of years ago that had what I believed to be a total reblue. The work that was done would have had to have been nearly perfect. To my untrained eye, there are not any signs of over polishing. All of the lettering, including the rampant Pony, are crisp and clear. I see no signs of the hard edges being rounded. But, it has a very high polish finish. It was sold as a re blue, and I paid a reblue price for it. I can't remember what it was but it was less than $500 I'm sure. Probably in the 400 + range. I have read recently that some of the early 1903 s came with a high polish finish. This is certainly not an early version. Serial number dates it to 1922 and it is a Type 3 if you use Chuck Hawks Article of types. The safety and Trigger also have a high polish blue finish. Not the fire blue that the originals were issued with. This further supports that the high polish finish that is on the gun is an aftermarket Improvement. But, I keep coming back to how well it was polished. It seems too good to have been done after market.

My question is, is there any solid evidence when or if later models may have come from the factory with a high polished finish.?

My assumption for now is that it was reblued after market. I just want to satisfy my curiosity.

I will post a picture separately
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Old April 22, 2019, 04:02 PM   #2
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In for the pic! I love those pistols!
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Old April 22, 2019, 05:12 PM   #3
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Let us see how well I can do this. I do know that I lose some clarity when I resize them to post on this site. The best example is the close up of the rampant Pony. The resize the picture makes it look like there is some softness to the lines. A full size picture, shows how crisp those lines really are. But I cannot post the larger picture on this forum. I gave up on hosting sites when the large site started strong-arming people.
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Old April 22, 2019, 05:17 PM   #4
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Second set of photos. It does need to be cleaned. But in some of the photos you can see the reflection of the branches from the tree that I am under while taking the photographs.
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Old April 22, 2019, 05:27 PM   #5
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I figure what I have is a really good reblue. It makes no sense to reblue only the trigger and the safety from the original fire blue. Maybe others can see softness in lines that shouldn't be there. I am certainly no expert.
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Old April 22, 2019, 05:42 PM   #6
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This is the highest resolution photograph of the prancing pony that I can post. It is better than the previous one.
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Old April 22, 2019, 06:18 PM   #7
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Obvious reblue. I can see pitting in the metal when I enlarge the pictures.
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Old April 22, 2019, 07:35 PM   #8
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Reblued, no question.
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Old April 22, 2019, 09:17 PM   #9
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Reblue isn't the question. When did Colt stop with the mirror finish is. The standard finish wasn't that polished. Though some of the early 1903's were supplied with the high polish. To take it to the next step, could a high polish be ordered?

http://www.coltautos.com/mmst_i.htm

Keep in mind, the pictures are reduced to 800 x 600 and the firearm isn't clean. I can see small areas where the blue is thin/missing. The idea of the question was to determine if the polishing was done originally or during the reblue.
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Old April 22, 2019, 09:23 PM   #10
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The source for types and manufacture date wasn't Chuck Hawkes. It was the unblinking eye.

https://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/1903C/1903c.html
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Old April 23, 2019, 01:15 AM   #11
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Quote:
Reblue isn't the question.
Actually, reblued IS the question. That pistol is reblued with caustic hot bluing. Originals were rust blued. It may be a very high quality reblue, but it is a reblue. Whether it came from the factory with a gloss blue or a regular finish can be determined by Colt historians, but that gun is reblued.
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Old April 23, 2019, 08:55 AM   #12
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I am not a Colt collector, so I haven't seen everything.
But I have not seen a period factory gun that shiny. The only thing that bright was a factory refinish in what they now call Royal Blue but is a good deal shinier than any Gold Cup or Python I know of.
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Old April 23, 2019, 01:49 PM   #13
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From my original post:

"My question is, is there any solid evidence when or if later models may have come from the factory with a high polished finish.?

My assumption for now is that it was reblued after market. I just want to satisfy my curiosity
."


I re-read my first post and I just wasn't clear enough in my first post. I bought it as a re-blue and always suspected it was a re-blue. The polish is the question and I wasn't clear enough on that. Maybe I'm expecting too much from 800 x 600 resolution pictures. What I was hoping for was better eyes/experience to locate signs of polishing that wasn't done by the factory not if it was a re-blue. Things like sharp edges that were rounded. I'm not familiar enough with the firearm to know what edges are supposed to be sharp and which are supposed to be smooth. The only signs on the roll stamps that I can see that might indicate polishing is one part of the 'P' in Patented is missing a small part. That and the Rampant Pony doesn't appear to be uniform in depth.

I could have made it clearer. Sorry if it was confusing.

I didn't realize that Colt was using a rust blue at the time. I knew that Winchester was. It would suck to spend a couple hundred dollars on a Colt letter for a re-blued gun.

Thanks.
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Old April 23, 2019, 11:24 PM   #14
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Contrary to the original description, I'd say it's very obviously overbuffed and reblued.
Colt did not rust blue. They used an oven bluing process that involved heating the metal over a smoldering mixture of bone, fish oil, and some other secret ingredients (after degreasing in 150-degree gasoline).
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Old April 24, 2019, 12:10 AM   #15
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Quote:
Colt did not rust blu
Yes, they did.
Quote:
They used an oven bluing process that involved heating the metal over a smoldering mixture of bone, fish oil, and some other secret ingredients
You are describing Colt Carbonia bluing. It is also referred to as oil bluing, oven bluing, and Colt Royal Blue.

Here are two Colt finishes on 1903 32 ACP pistols. One is the standard blue, a rust blue finish. The other is a Colt Carbonia finish, an oven finish that leaves almost a "crust" of glossy blue on the parts, but scratches and chips with age and is easy to identify as this type of finish. These two 1903s are in my shop, so I took the picture for comparison. Hot caustic blue is very easy to tell from either of these two finishes.
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Old April 24, 2019, 01:09 AM   #16
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Quote:
...I'd say it's very obviously overbuffed...
I agree. It's been polished heavily, the edges are rounded badly. I'm actually impressed that the lettering is still as visible as it is given how severely rounded the edges are.

Here's what a 1903 should look like. Pay close attention to the edges and corners.

http://www.coltautos.com/mmst_iii.htm

Here's a comparison between the one still in good condition and yours. You can see how sharp the corners and edges look in the one that hasn't been improperly polished


Colt may have done some high-polish guns, but I feel pretty confident in saying that polish job did not come from the Colt factory.
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Old April 24, 2019, 08:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Colt did not rust blu
"Yes, they did."

Hey, you caught that one before I could stop and delete it.
I realized that I had no reference on very early Colts and dropped the comment.

Coolgunsite says they were doing the oven blue on first run 1911s.
"Colt 1 to 2400: Bright furnace blued, Slide and receiver highly polished. Certain small parts have a high polished bright Fire blued (Cobalt Color) appearance"

Clawson says those guns were blued in coal fired ovens and only in 1918 did they go over to gas fired.

Were .32s finished the same way as .45? Hard to see why not.
Maybe they rust blued before 1911.

Colt COULD do a high polish, their nickel guns are quite shiny.
Would they special order a high polish blue? I don't know, take an advanced collector to show one.
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Old April 24, 2019, 11:22 AM   #18
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Thanks John. That’s what I was looking for. I’ll look when I can get back to a full sized computer instead of my phone.
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Old April 24, 2019, 09:07 PM   #19
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Now I can see. I was so focused on the lettering the edges weren't obvious to me. I learned something today.

I still like it and as I remember it wasn't that expensive.
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Old April 24, 2019, 10:47 PM   #20
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It's a nice gun and will be a fun shooter. It's not especially collectible like it is, but that should not be much of a blow since you bought it already knowing that it was refinished.
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Old April 26, 2019, 03:12 PM   #21
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Yeah. It is fun to shoot and I didn’t figure it had collectible value when I bought it. I wouldn’t have bought it for the price it would have cost had it been original. I like it a lot and the price was right.
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Old April 27, 2019, 02:56 PM   #22
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Quote:
Quote:
Colt did not rust blu
"Yes, they did."

Hey, you caught that one before I could stop and delete it.
I realized that I had no reference on very early Colts and dropped the comment.

Coolgunsite says they were doing the oven blue on first run 1911s.
"Colt 1 to 2400: Bright furnace blued, Slide and receiver highly polished. Certain small parts have a high polished bright Fire blued (Cobalt Color) appearance"

Clawson says those guns were blued in coal fired ovens and only in 1918 did they go over to gas fired.

Were .32s finished the same way as .45? Hard to see why not.
Maybe they rust blued before 1911.

Colt COULD do a high polish, their nickel guns are quite shiny.
Would they special order a high polish blue? I don't know, take an advanced collector to show one.
I have two Model Ms, a Model N, and a M1911, all made in the early 20th century, all original finish, and none of them is rust blued. Neither was the '20s Army Special I used to have.

Springfield Armory rust-blued their M1911s.
FN rust blued their Browning pistols.
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Old April 29, 2019, 06:51 PM   #23
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My 03 Colt .32 has the original finish, and it sure does not look like rust blue. Rust blue has a 'softer' look. Mine was made around 1922.
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Old May 2, 2019, 06:36 AM   #24
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I don't know exactly when Colt started or stopped doing high polish rust bluing on their automatics, or for that matter if they used rust bluing at all as I am no expert, but I do know that very early on they were doing a very high quality polished finish on their 1911's. I believe they stopped it, at least on 1911's in mid 1912 or so.

This is a very early 1912 production (three digit serial number) original condition commercial Government Model that has a highly polished finish.



A disclaimer: This is NOT my gun, I wish it was mine, but it belongs to a fellow that goes by the name of beetle on the calguns forum

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Old May 2, 2019, 05:49 PM   #25
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Love the 03 Colts. Mine's from 1920.

I'd have no trouble owning yours, John! Nice pistol.
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